Off Script: How Phillipa Soo Treats Herself Between "Vulnerable" Performances in 'Hamilton'
The Tony nominee, who will lend her voice to Disney's 'Moana' and exchange vows with Steven Pasquale, talks meeting the Obamas and avid fans barely old enough to read.
Behind every great man is a great woman, and it's Hamilton's Phillipa Soo who is front and center by the end of the hit musical. Making her Broadway debut, the actress received a Tony nomination — a rarity for a woman of Asian descent — for originating the gut-wrenching Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, the titular character's wife and steadfast supporter. THR praised her "moving" performance and standout numbers: "'Helpless' measures up to the most irresistible pop songs about love at first sight in the way it captures the sheer giddiness and joy of a romantic thunderbolt, ... [and] Eliza's plea to Alexander to leave the battlefield and return to his family, 'That Would Be Enough,' is a heartbreaker."
Before Soo, 26, lends her voice to Disney's animated film Moana (featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda) or exchanges vows with fellow stage star Steven Pasquale, she goes Off Script to talk post-show indulgences, singing alone onstage and continually exploring Manhattan, since she just happens to be in "the greatest city in the world."
What’s the best part about playing your character?
I learn something new about love every day. For example, loving yourself is just as important as loving other people.
What’s your toughest scene?
From "Burn" through the rest of the show, it's a whirlwind of emotion. And I'm pretty vulnerable singing that one alone on my own; sometimes I think, "Oh my god, no one is behind me! What am I gonna do?"
Phillipa Soo and Lin-Manuel Miranda in 'Hamilton.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus
What new habits have you adopted for the role?
I've prioritized taking care of my mind, having fun and doing things that make me laugh. And eating well — as in, really good food, like steak or pasta or fresh vegetables or an amazing dessert. You know, "treat yo'self."
What have you given up to play this role?
I used to do yoga a lot more. But I do get to ride my bike to work, sometimes through Central Park or on the West Side.
What time do you wake up on a show day?
I love my mornings because that's the time I get to spend with my fiancé. I wake up around nine, drink a cup of coffee, answer some emails and ease myself into the day.
Do you eat dinner before or after a performance?
I eat a light but sustaining dinner before the show: a bunch of greens and some non-gluten quinoa or rice. I'll have a snack at intermission. I'm trying so hard not to have meals after the show because it's so late, but sometimes I just want a big bowl of pasta.
Any pre-show rituals?
I make sure I say hi to the cast, especially Leslie Odom Jr. Two kisses on each cheek. And I do crunches.
Do you have trouble sleeping afterward?
I know other people in this show do, but I don't. I go straight to bed!
What do you do on your day off?
I like to just be in the city. Sometimes I pretend like I'm a visitor, and try new restaurants and see new places. In my ideal day off, I wish I could see more theater, because there are so many great things happening.
What’s something special in your dressing room?
A coin that was my grandfather's, which is an exact replica of a coin from the Hamilton era. My mother turned it into a necklace and gave it to me.
Favorite backstage guest?
President Obama and Michelle Obama have been a highlight. Michelle Obama said that Hamilton is the best piece of art that she had ever seen. I was just so honored and grateful.
Best stage door reaction so far?
It's been amazing seeing the age of the fans get younger and younger. Now, there are four, five, six-year-olds who say, "My mom and I looked up all the history!" Children who don't know how to read yet are learning.